La La Land

Old Vs. New

In their most recent pairing, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling retrace the steps of old Hollywood classics while struggling with the modern day realities of success, romance and passion in musical fashion. A certain historical context is required to truly appreciate the musical approach. Otherwise the viewer may find themselves like I did. At first I simply admired the spectacle for its surface level of bedazzlement and classical charm juxtaposing a now homogenized Los Angeles. However, it became clear that Damien Chazelle has managed to tightly weave the old and the new exceptionally. It’s a means of controlling narrative and accentuating the difference between then and now.  Opposite ideas are placed side by side yet fit together perfectly.

Cool Jazz

From classical versus homogenized, the film moves between certain opposites seamlessly. This is not just for the sake of showing the difference between then and now. It’s a means of progressing the story. The rhythmically-cadenced up and down, back and forth sensibility is parallel to the pacing of its music. The film then gains another dimension when disillusionment challenges nostalgic love. Gosling’s character contributes to the very trend which he resents, the commercialization of passion and creativity – selling out. The arcs of the characters are analogous to the progression of the eras that the story and its characters are comparing.

Rogers and Astaire

This essence is touched upon constantly throughout the movie in various ways. The visuals transition between bold, solid colors of Stone’s art deco apartment to glitzy happy hours in abstract post-modern architecture. The film concludes in a contemporary, LED lit jazz lounge as a happy medium – a balanced conclusion.

We go from Stone lip-syncing corny 80’s hits at a pool party filled with platinum tan models to tap dancing versus the Toyota Prius. The movie is about a cynical 21st century struggling to honor the burgeoning romantic era of entertainment that preceded it. It’s about how we tend to look back and wish things could be like how they were before, regardless of what period of time it actually is. This is channeled through the daydreaming aspirations of its two main characters. Moments like their cul de sac serenade certainly tap into the twinkle of something golden and original, but only until they have to stop and check their smart phones.